Traveling to Ethiopia soon and looking for the best way to stay connected? Don’t waste money on high roaming charges and buy a local prepaid sim card on arrival in Ethiopia, the easiest way to get an affordable data connection on your phone! Wait, what am I saying… affordable? Prepaid sim cards in Ethiopia are CHEAP!
In this guide I will tell you everything you need to know about staying connected when traveling to Ethiopia. Where to buy a local prepaid sim card for Ethiopia, up to date prices as per August 2023, info about international and e-sim cards for Ethiopia, the registration process, the best 4G network and more.
While trying to visit every country in the world I get to a lot of places and Ethiopia was country number 116 for me on my journey around the world. In total I wrote more than 200 sim card guides along the way: Nairobi, Djibouti, Egypt, Cairo, Kenya, Turkey, Istanbul, Europe, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and many more.
Why buying a sim card in Ethiopia
Well let’s keep it simple. Life is so much more convenient these days with a working data connection on your phone and so is traveling: finding a nearby restaurant, bar, hotel, etc. getting directions from Google Maps, translation apps and so on.
Need more reasons? Did you know that overseas data plans are limited in data speed (mostly 3G)? And did you realize that public WiFi is an UNSECURED network?
To get connected to the best network and enjoy the fastest internet speed there is no cheaper, easier and better option than buying a local sim card for traveling to Ethiopia.
Well, there is NOT much to recommend! Why? There is only 1 mobile internet provider in Ethiopia: Ethio Telecom! On arrival you can buy a sim card at the airport in Addis Ababa and that is pretty much the only thing I can recommend. You can only buy a physical prepaid sim card, e-sim cards for tourists are NOT available at Addis Ababa Airport.
According to the Ethio Telecom website there are e-sim cards available, but not for tourists, only for postpaid plans. This is double checked in an Ethio Telecom store in Addis Ababa in August 2023.
Some website will tell you that it is possible to buy an e-sim card for Ethiopia through an e-sim card provider on the internet. However, there is no e-sim card provider that sells e-sim cards for Ethiopia. It simply does NOT exist!
International and e-sim cards for Ethiopia
Normally Traveltomtom always recommends international sim cards with worldwide coverage as well. However, there are no international sim cards that cover Ethiopia. Which means you can not buy a sim card for Ethiopia online before your trip.
There are also NO e-sim cards available for Ethiopia as of August 2023. The only and best way to stay connected when traveling to Ethiopia is buying a local prepaid sim card on arrival in Ethiopia.
For travelers with an iPhone 14 from the USA that means they have a problem as there is no more prepaid sim card slot anymore in those iPhones. For these travelers it is recommended to bring an extra phone because Ethio Telecom, does NOT offer e-sim cards yet.
The only telecom provider in Ethiopia is owned by the government of Ethiopia and holds a monopoly for providing mobile internet and all other telecommunication services in Ethiopia.
Prepaid sim card registration in Ethiopia
Just like in most other countries around the world and in East Africa, you will need to bring your passport when buying a prepaid sim card in Ethiopia. A photo of your passport page will be taken as well as a photo of yourself. The face photo is part of the registration of your new Ethiopia prepaid sim card.
Phone shops will take a photo of you, there is no need to bring a passport photo yourself, but you can if you want to.
Where to buy a sim card in Ethiopia
There is no doubt that the easiest, fastest and most convenient place to buy a sim card in Ethiopia is at Addis Ababa Airport. Luckily for international travelers there is an Ethio Telecom shop in the arrival hall of Addis Ababa International Airport.
When walking into the arrival hall after you pass the customs security check there is an Ethio Telecom store on your left hand side and can’t be missed. The Ethio shop at Addis Ababa Airport is open 24 hours!
The Ethio Telecom store at Addis Ababa Airport only accepts cash: Birr, USD, EUR and GBP are accepted. Credit cards are NOT accepted. You will get your change in Birr. The exchange rate they use isn’t the best, but at least you are able to buy a sim card for Ethiopia directly on arrival.
When for some reasons you weren’t able to buy a prepaid sim card for Ethiopia at Addis Ababa Airport then I recommend you to go to the DUKI mall or the Century Mall in the city center. These malls both have authorized Ethio Telecom stores.
We do not recommend buying a prepaid sim card from one of the street vendors or random phone shops as the registration process is vital for a working data connection. Always buy a sim card in Ethiopia from an authorized retail store.
There are a couple more Ethio Telecom stores around the city, see the map above.
Prepaid sim card prices in Ethiopia
A prepaid sim card in Ethiopia costs 30 Birr – ($0.66) and comes with 15 Birr (30 minutes calling time) and 100 MB data.
As this is of course not enough you can add daily, weekly and monthly data packages, see the picture above.
These are the most common data package:
- 45 Birr = 1 GB for 1 day – $1
- 120 Birr = 2 GB for 7 days – $2.7
- 250 Birr = 4 GB for 1 month – $5.5
- 450 Birr = 8 GB for 1 month – $10
- 520 Birr = 10 GB for 1 month – $11.5
Ethio Telecom also offers unlimited data packages:
- 440 Birr = 1 week unlimited data – $10
- 836 Birr = 2 weeks unlimited data – $18.5
- 1.510 Birr = 1 month unlimited data – $33
They also have combo packages with calling time included, see the picture below.
If you want to separately add some calling credit you can easily top up: 0,5 Birr per minute. So for 45 Birr ($1) you get 90 minutes calling time.
As you can see from the above updated prices per August 2023 prepaid sim cards in Ethiopia are CHEAP!
So whenever you are thinking about an international sim card or an overseas data plan on your sim card, then think again. There is no cheaper way than buying a local prepaid sim card in Ethiopia to stay connected on your trip.
Important Ethio Telecom speed dial numbers
- *804# = balance request (Airtime, Credit, Data, Voice)
- *999# = buy new data or voice package
I hope all the above tips for buying a sim card in Ethiopia were helpful. If you have any questions please leave me a comment below and I will try to help you out.
Go check out my Instagram account @traveltomtom for some cool wanderlust inspiration about traveling the world or check out my journey to visit every country in the world. As of August 2023 I have been to more than 155 countries.
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Enjoy your trip to Ethiopia!
Some links in this article about the best sim cards for traveling to Ethiopia are affiliate links. If you buy any of the products after using an affiliate link I will earn a small commission. This is at absolutely no extra cost to you.